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Cost of Living in France

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Dec 2019 | comments*Discuss
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The cost of living in France is a popular topic of conversation amongst British expats. Exact amounts are remembered and receipts are kept as proof - no expat dinner party is complete without a product price comparison discussion, either in terms of the various French supermarkets in relation to the UK and the services you need for your everyday life.

Whether you believe the cost of living in France to be higher than that in the UK very much depends on your circumstances. If, for instance, you run two cars, arrived with a sparse wardrobe have a large house to renovate in France, you may think that life is extortionate, whereas if you live in a town, only need to put your own stamp on your new home and have plenty of shoes, life is cheap!

Here's why -

Clothes are Expensive

Before the likes of Tesco and Primark joined the British high street clothing retailers this may not have been the case, but now they have, it is hard to remember paying high prices for every day basics. In France, there is not the equivalent of the British high street, although you do see the same brand names in many towns and cities. You can buy cheaper clothing in supermarkets, but they are not very well styled or well cut, so are perhaps best avoided if you are concerned with your appearance.

Many expats choose to buy their clothes on trips back to UK, or buy clothes online. If you do prefer to buy clothes in France, be prepared that the same quality is vastly more expensive (a plain t-shirt is around €40) and the styles available may not suit your taste.


Utilities in France are comparable to the UK, although the key difference is that there does not seem to be the same level of competition for your custom. This means that there are not the same competitive deals in France that we are used to seeing in the UK, where the ease of transferring your provider to a better deal is commonplace. This does seem to be changing slowly in France, so the more modern services of broadband and mobile phones are more competitive than gas and electricity.


Much like the UK, the cost of your shopping depends on where and when you shop. If you are only prepared to do a weekly supermarket shop, you will probably think that the prices are higher than in the UK. This is largely to do with the fact that 'buy one, get one free' and 'three for two' type offers are not yet popular here. There are occasionally 10% extra type deals, but there are nowhere near the same levels of bargains to be had in French supermarkets.

If you make the most of the wonderful local products available and shop at local markets, you can enjoy a wonderful diet at a lower cost that food shopping in the UK. By embracing the French way of cooking and eating, you can buy seasonal, local produce. There is no point moving to France and then paying over the odds for exported British food.

DIY goods are very varied in price - the price of paint and flat pack furniture, for example, is crazy expensive compared to the UK, whereas random items such as taps are far cheaper.


This topic really gets the dinner parties heated up. Although France is considered a high taxation country, if you seek good professional advice and utilise the tax situation available for your circumstances, France can actually prove to be the same if not lower than the UK in terms of tax.

Services such as health care and schooling can be more expensive than the UK, although they are widely considered superior in quality. French healthcare is available to all expats in possession of the relevant forms, which you are entitled to depending on your tax and employment situation. State schools in France are generally of a very good standard, although inner city schools face many of the same issues as those in the UK. Be aware that your school age children are required to have their own school insurance policy.

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I'm currently at the start of my journey and planning to retire in France in the next 4 years.I'm a UK passport holder but left the UK in 1977 to live and work in Germany.I then left Germany in 1998 to live and work in Switzerland where I will still be upon retirement. My plan is to buy a small house outright and therefore at least live mortgate/rent free upon retirement. I'm still trying to gather information from the German Pension system to see what my actual pension will be that I will receive from their side.I already know ca. what my Swiss pension will be after working here 25 years. I'm having a hard time finding out a good average of what kind of overheads I'll be looking at as a retiree once in France?Apart from the upkeep of the house and utilities, what kind of costs are you looking at for health insurance, tax???? and any other costs you face as a retiree?Is it based on how much your actual pension is? Appreciate any insider information or knowlege.
alpbabe - 4-Dec-19 @ 11:11 AM
i would ask you than i wish livesouth ofFrancebecause i do likefrontSea viewvery much but i feel bit worriedabout high rentalswellalsoi would betry cheap apartmentsbut bit moremoney for extraeverythingreallyi only getsincome£1,200 a monthsbut someBritishGovernmentswill bit cutsstate benefits wellperhaps never knowifi gets cutsalso i will not relocate tosouth ofFrancebut wait seelater i hopeso& finger crossedabout thisthanks Reggie Andrews,
henryallan1450 - 29-Apr-19 @ 7:05 PM
I have lived in France since 2016 and the cost of living is very high - the utilities are ridiculous the costof insurance , house car etc far too expensive - some one is getting very very rich - rip off France !!
Juliette - 29-Aug-18 @ 8:59 PM
I found it to be very cheap in France in 2015, food, petrol and diesel, wine, beer and tobacco were all about 50-70% British prices. Perhaps that was due to a very good exchange rate. Housing in rural areas is still very cheap, especially if it's an uglier house or by a main road. Some things like paint and other DIY products were slightly more expensive than in Britain and choice is not so good as in Britain; overall though I'd say that life is more pleasant in France, if you can keep contacts in Britain then even better.
Jimmy - 25-Jan-16 @ 9:06 PM
how does the general cost of living compare to the uk,do you have to pay council tax,we need as much imformation as possible as we would really like to set up residance in france next year,we are a retired couple.
gazza - 8-Nov-12 @ 4:10 PM
I am moving to northern france with 2 children, eldest at 13yrs has diabetes and youngest has mild learning probs, have decided on english speaking schools BUT any advice on health insurance as i am totally confused and have to think about health care for my diabetic son.thanks INSURANCE or not, will france cope with him!!! i hope so!
pjs - 14-Sep-12 @ 11:30 AM
Supermarket shopping in France is expensive unless you shop around, Lidl is good for everyday bits and pieces, local markets for fresh meat or your local butcher and only buy what you need for some reason everyone who goes into a french supermarket seems to fill their trolley's up like they are in a grub grab competition, also buy whats in season its cheaper in france as their suppliers grow seasonal produce locally.Or even better buy produce from your local farm.
Bee - 30-Sep-11 @ 12:07 PM
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